“We fix on our Standards and Drums the Colony arms, with the motto, Qui Transtulit Sustinet, round it in letters of gold, which we construe thus: God, who transplanted us hither, will support us.” – A letter regarding the Lexington Alarm dated Wethersfield, CT., April 23, 1775 Record of Connecticut Men in the War of the Revolution 1775-1783, Adj. Gen., Hartford, 1889
Historical Series, Number Nine, July 4, 1776 plus 225 years
The Educational Outreach of the General Israel Putnam Branch No. 4
of the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution
THE WAY OF LIBERTY:
THE ENGLISH COLONY OF CONNECTICUT IN NEW ENGLAND
In the pursuit of liberty, problems with both the arbitrary rule of kings or Magistrates (tyranny) and rule by a people who do as they please (anarchy) became evident. The need for government is certain because human nature is contentious, but the pursuit of a land of liberty would begin a most interesting but painful lesson.
Archaeology would discover “the sudden civilization” ca 3800 B.C. at Sumer (Shinar) in ancient Mesopotamia where early history was documented on thousands of amazing cylinder seals and clay tablets, with the earliest known reference to liberty. The first city was Eridu, near the traditional Eden, where the Ruler eventually needed a reform decree to check the abuse of power by many Sumerian officials. An early Sumerian proverb would expose a fundamental truth regarding the nature of man’s government: “In a city without watchdogs, the fox is the overseer.”Notice the similarity to our present day “Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty”.
About 400 years after the flood, the faithful Abraham would be called out of Ur, a later City twelve miles from Eridu, and he would subsequently Grandfather Biblical Israel. In ancient Israel, the “Ark of the Covenant” contained God’s Law given to Moses, and the Judgement of the Law of Moses would democratically pass from the Judges to a King (I Samuel 8:1-22), where “It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:12). Kings honoring the law were known as “Righteous” (Right, wise and just). As Kings ignored the Law of Moses and worshiped idols, they became “Idolatrous” and subjected the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel to captivity in Assyria and Babylon. This democratic experiment with Monarchy later brought about The Southern Kingdom’s subservience to the Roman Empire, but also produced the historical background for the birth of Jesus Christ with his associated prophesies and revelation to establish his relationship to Proverbs 16:12, resulting 1700 years later in a cry of the American Revolution: “No King but King Jesus”.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10) and “the beginning of wisdom is to call everything by its proper name”. After his army had survived the harsh winter encampment, General George Washington issued orders from Headquarters at Valley Forge on Saturday May 2, 1778: “The Commander in Chief directs that divine Service be performed every Sunday at 11 o Clock in those Brigades to which there are Chaplains; those which have none to attend the places of worship nearest to them. It is expected that Officers of all Ranks will by their attendance set an Example to their men. While we are zealously performing the duties of good Citizens and soldiers we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of Religion. To the distinguished Character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian. The signal instances of providential Goodness which we have experienced and which have now almost crowned our labours with complete success, demand from us in a peculiar manner the warmest returns of Gratitude and Piety to the Supreme Author of all Good” (John Calvin’s acknowledgement of God – “Institutes of the Christian Religion”, Book III, Chapter 20). General George Washington, who would become the conquering hero and realize the universal respect of his officers, troops, countrymen and foreign nations, would not invoke “Divine Right” and refused to be crowned the King of America, though democratically offered to him. In 1789, within the framework of the new Constitutional Republic, He would serve as our first President.
Ancient Greece, influenced by schools of philosophers, also experimented with democracy, but class struggles would cause Athens to institute “the laws of Solon” in hope of a government where people obey the rulers and the rulers obey the laws. Saint Augustine would comment in his book, “The City of God”, “Is it not a fact that in Athens the Epicureans and Stoics were equally admired, although the former taught that the gods took no interest in human affairs, while the latter taught that the gods constantly governed, guarded and guided them? These are mutually exclusive opinions”. “These men, in all their laborious investigations, seem to have had one supreme and common objective: to discover what manner of living is best suited to laying hold upon happiness. Yet, they have ended up by disagreeing – disciples with masters, and disciples with fellow disciples. Why, except that they sought the answer to their question merely in human terms, depending solely upon human experience and human reasoning? What does it all go to prove except that human unhappiness cannot get very far along the road to happiness unless divine authority shows the way?” The founder of Connecticut, the Reverend Thomas Hooker relied on divine authority to establish civil government, as did Connecticut signers of the Declaration of Independence, Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams and Oliver Wolcott, with members of the Continental Congress declaring the Fourth of July, 1776. In their “pursuit of happiness”, “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world”, they would end the text, “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour. The Constitution of the United States also clearly acknowledged Divine Authority when Connecticut’s Roger Sherman and William Samuel Johnson, along with George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and the other Delegates affirmed “Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven andof the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth In Witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names.”
Rome would expand on the Greek constitutional model, recognizing the value of “mixed Constitutions” in restraining democratic tendencies to empower the passions of tyranny, anarchy or plutocracy. But the passions and appetites of human nature eventually undermined the mixed constitutions of the republican model and civil government fell first to tyrants, then to foreign barbarians. John Milton, the poet, became blind writing in the good old cause of “Liberty’s Defense, my noble task”. Though blind, his insight inspired the writing of “Paradise Lost” noting the angels choice to be selfless or selfish: “I formd them free, and free they must remain, Till they enthrall themselves”. And to men “who doubt his (God’s) ways not just, give the reins to wandering thought, by their own perplexities involved, They ravel more, still less resolved, But never find self-satisfying solution” and “Therefore since hee permits Within himself unworthy Powers to rein Over free Reason, God in Judgement just Subjects him from without to violent Lords”. The reading of John Milton in school was a longstanding American tradition, recently lost. John Adams, our second President, read “Paradise Lost as a young man and it had a powerful impact. Writing in defense of the mixed and balanced constitutions (checks and balances) of the American states in 1787, John Adams would state: “although reason ought always to govern individuals, it certainly never did since the Fall, and never will till the Millennium (thousand year reign of Christ) and human nature must be taken as it is, as it has been, and will be.” John Adams recognized the need for the stability of law and was familiar with Algernon Sidney, John Milton and James Harrington and their historical definition of a republic: “a Nation of laws and not of men”. Meeting some hostility to his ideas of a republic with a balanced constitution, Adams would cite Milton: “I did but teach the Age, to quit their Cloggs, by the plain Rules of ancient Liberty, When lo! a barbarous Noise surrounded me Of Owls and Cuckoo’s, Asses, Apes and Dogs”. John’s Cousin and fellow Patriot Samuel Adams, known as the Father of the American Revolution, also understood the need for just laws, and with the signing of our Declaration of Independence he would state: “We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let his Kingdom come”.
From the third millennium B.C., “The Epic of Gilgamesh” told of the Kingship let down from Heaven and gods ruling over the City-States of the “sudden civilization” in Mesopotamia. The kingship was later given to the mortal hero Gilgamesh, who would fail in his search for immortality. Gilgamesh eventually lies dead on the couch of many colours, the bed of fate (Namtar); and now subject to the Queen of the underworld and the gods of the dead. Variations of these gods of the dead continued to be worshipped in the ancient empires. Milton’s Epic of “Paradise Lost” would attribute this problem to disobedience, resulting in human bondage to the “council at pandemonium”.
The hope of eternal life became evident when “the Lord gave the Word: great was the company of the preachers” and thousands of Christians in the early Church became martyrs for their faith in Christ. The authority of Jesus Christ (the author, Heb. 5:9, 12:2) was recorded and preached (1 Cor 1:18) by his Apostles, recognized by his Church (body of Christ) and became the Gospel of Christianity (God’s truth to those called by his name). In the words of the Apostle Paul, “For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal 5:13). Later, the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and his edict of 313 A.D. provided for freedom of religion.
Following the collapse of Rome in 410 A.D., the search for political stability would center on the Christian Church at Rome and the new Church-State alliances would form the Holy Roman Empire. Though the Books of the Bible were canonized in 397 A.D., the common people could not read and freedom of religion was subjected to the intrigues of migrations, wars, conquests, crusades, inquisitions, slavery, feudalism, hereditary Kingdoms, and empires occupying the Dark and Middle Ages for a thousand years with claims of Divine Right becoming a norm for European politics. The first freedom proclaimed by Magna Charta in 1215 was “the English Church shall be free”, but even in the English Church, freedom of Religion was defined as heresy, and heretics preaching nonconformity were burned at the stake or imprisoned unto death.
Bible scholarship eventually challenged the idea of man’s Divine Right and began to define virtuous liberty as the good old cause under “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. The Reformation added a new dimension to the intrigues of European politics when In 1521, the German Monk, Martin Luther, would seek reforms in the Christian Church, saying “Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me. Amen.” Augustine and Aquinas believed free will was subject to God’s grace and Luther further observed “Free Will is a sacred name for God alone”. Liberty was entwined with virtue, nonexistent apart from God, and dependent on God’s will toward us. By God’s will, his word was received as a basis for law; originally the Old Testament letter, but in Christ, the New Testament Spirit (2 Cor 3:1-6, Ro 8). St. Augustine viewed God’s will as “Divine Providence alone explains the establishment of kingdoms among men. As for those who speak of fate, but mean by fate the will and power of God, they should keep their conception but change their expression”. Acknowledging “God is the Author” and “the laws of His providence”, he comments “It is the glory of vain men never to yield to the truth. Such vainglory is a deadly passion for those it dominates. It is a disease that, in spite of every effort, is never cured – not because the doctor is inept, but because the patient is incurable.” John Calvin would follow Augustines view, writing “When we thus speak of God, our thoughts must be raised to their highest pitch: we must not ascribe to him anything of a terrestrial nature, must not measure him by our little standards, or suppose his will to be like ours. At the same time we must put our confidence in him, understanding that heaven and earth are governed by his providence and power”.
With the transplanting of Christianity to New England, “The Marrow of Theology” by William Ames (1576-1633), served as the basic expression of New England Puritan thought through the American Revolution and its impact is prominently stamped on our State and National identity. “The Marrow of Theology” had its roots in Augustine, and Thomas Hooker, a friend of William Ames, recommended it as the only book after the Bible to make one a good divine. Chapter nine is titled “Providence”, a concept of faith invoked countless times by the Founders and our heritage of Statesmanship. The way of liberty comes by God’s grace and follows the path of his Providence. That path brought Thomas Hooker to the “howling wildernesse” with a Biblical appreciation for Divine Providence as later declared in the American Revolution.
Thomas Hooker was born in England in 1586 during the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I, with Emmanuel College, Cambridge chartered two years earlier. Elizabeth was well aware of the passions of European politics as related to established religions and nonconforming believers and she was cautious to walk a fine line between the factions. As Emmanuel College became the most Puritan of the Colleges of Cambridge University, Elizabeth questioned its founder if he had erected a puritan foundation? Replying he had done nothing contrary to her established laws, he continued “but I have set an acorn, which when it becomes an oak, God alone knows what will be the fruit thereof”. Thomas Hooker received his Masters Degree from Emmanuel College in 1611 and his significance in establishing American Constitutional Liberty is well known. He became an influential preacher in England, but was silenced late in 1629; summoned to appear before the Court of High Commission for preaching nonconformity; fled to Amsterdam; and in July 1633, sailed with John Cotton for refuge in Massachusetts Bay. Thomas Hooker was a leader of “the New England Way”, preaching that human reason is “carnal reason”, enslaving mankind to wandering thoughts…where evils are maintained and nursed up”. Liberty comes only in the choice of good by way of God’s grace in the “straight gate to Christ and eternal life”. 3600 years after the “Epic of Gilgamesh”, mortality was still the issue and Hooker was concerned for his congregation: “wee have one foote already in the grave…thy bed may become thy grave, and then what will become of thy poor soule, the divells may drag it into hell”. “Dead Fishes Swim down the stream. Thou art a dead man if thou goest with the stream of the world”.